A Sermon and Prayer Delivered by JESSE KERSEY, at the Friends' Meeting, Carpenters' Hall, Philadelphia, June 3rd, 1827.
The Quaker, Vol. II No. 1, pages 1-8.
This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part 3: The 19th Century.
I have often been instructed by having brought before the view of my mind, the
testimonies which have been left behind, by those advocates in the cause of
universal righteousness, that, with us, go under the character of apostles. The
testimony of the great apostle to the Gentiles relative to a very important subject,
has opened upon my mind in the present opportunity, wherein he hath said, that
"the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are
foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually
Now, when I consider that the obligations which relate to our eternal well-being
must necessarily be simple, and when I contrast this idea with the apostle's
testimony, it would seem as if they might possess a degree of variance with each
other. But I believe, my friends, if we come clearly to comprehend what that
great minister had in view, we shall find that it goes abundantly to simplify the
religion which he was engaged to inculcate. He perceived the distinction due and
proper to be made, in the views which were to be taken of man. He believed in
the existence of the natural man, which I take to be the outward, the organic, the
material man, so far as his physical powers can be taken into view. All the
powers that the natural man can possibly occupy, we shall, I believe, readily
perceive, have relation exclusively to material substances. The eye can only
discover material bodies, and every sense, in the construction of the natural man,
is unquestionably bounded by material substances; there must of course be a
difference between that which is material and that which is spiritual. And the
natural man occupying those outward natural senses, can never, by the
application of these, reach to any thing higher than they are competent to; and
hence, if brought to the perception of a spiritual subject and being, I take it, the
apostle believed, he must be brought to this comprehension by those capacities
adapted to that particular end.
Now, as in the natural man, there exists a natural order of senses, and as these
are applicable to their special end; so in the spiritual man there exists an order,
and every subject is comprehensible according to its order. In the outward, men
do not perceive objects but by their corresponding senses; and in that form must
the spiritual man, in like manner, come to a perception, by a corresponding
The apostle was brought to believe in the existence of spiritual perceptive powers, and that, as these were acted on, they were furnished with evidence of the existence of the cause which acts upon them. And when it pleases God, in his infinite, all powerful spirit, to reach forth the sceptre of his love, and to touch the spiritual, perceptive powers of the soul, then it is that we are sensible of his majestic presence. But we can never come to a comprehension of that knowledge, as I take it, agreeable to the testimony of the apostle, and every impression that I have witnessed on my part - we can never come to a comprehension of the knowledge of God, except through a spiritual medium. And hence, this knowledge is held up to be of such vast importance. "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent."
Now, you may perceive, my friends, that we may collect a great deal, and have our minds strengthened wills with much which we have received from others, and yet be void of that quickening perception, of that powerful quickening of God upon the soul of man, which was known and experienced on the part of those who declared this knowledge to be life eternal. It is not, then, so far as I have been permitted to see, within the reach of any external means which man can employ, ever to attain to a distinct, perceptive knowledge of God. But as we arrive at a knowledge of objects in the outward and visible creation, by corresponding powers, so we must arrive at a knowledge of God, by other, spiritual perceptive capacities. Hence we may perceive the necessity of our becoming abstracted from all material and visible things, when we are desiring to obtain an interview with God our gracious Creator. And hence it is, that all the pious, that have given testimony upon the subject, on the ground of their own practical knowledge, have invariably presented the necessity of all abstracted state, from the world and the things of the world, in order to obtain this blessed perception. But if our minds are kept abroad in the world, and are occupied in and amongst the objects that impress us as natural beings, amongst the visible objects of our affections - if our minds are kept here, we are unprepared to come to a perception of the knowledge of God; for it is the spirit that "searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God."
Whatever men may profess, however elevated their talents, however extended their literary advantages, if they have not attained to this retired spiritual state, in which the faculties of the soul are raised, and brought into a quickened, perceptive condition, they can know nothing of God. And when I have followed this consideration, as I have been induced to do in the present interesting opportunity, and when I have looked towards the termination of all visible objects of enjoyment or entertainment, I have believed that there was nothing so deeply important to man, as to be brought into this inward; spiritually dedicated state, in which the soul immortal can retire from all outward things, and enter into the presence of him that lives and reigns for ever; and who, blessed and magnified be his holy and eternal nature, remains to be the everlasting Father of his creation.
Whatever opinions may be promulgated, and whatever doctrines may be imposed upon the human family, the everlasting Father, the God of the spirits of all flesh, remains to be a being, compassionating every part of his workmanship, and graciously desiring the good of the whole. And we are considered, according to the testimony, of those who we believe were inspired, as being formed after the image of God. And the more we are raised into his blessed image, the more we shall find and feel that there are in us, through the all creative power of God, perceptive capacities, of which many may remain ignorant many years of their lives - perceptive powers which reach into the spiritual world, and in which we richly enjoy the presence of spiritual feelings, that no language can sufficiently delineate.
When the apostles and primitive believers were instructed to wait for this inheritance, they were commanded to wait at Jerusalem till they should be endowed with power from on high. They assembled together, stripped of every outward dependance; he, on whom they depended, had been taken away from their society. They sat down to wait, and witness the fulfilment of the promise made by God to their fathers, and in this state they became acquainted with the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit, through which the soul of man is led into the nature of a spiritual being, and into the enjoyment of spiritual happiness. But although there were some present who heard the testimony in relation to this important experience, and although they were themselves, incompetent to experience it to the full, at that moment, yet no doubt they were powerfully impressed with the truth of the testimony, and that others were brought to the perfection of things which they could only understand in their own tongues wherein they were born. They were brought into this situation as men - they felt their condition, and hence the solicitude was raised, "What shall we do to be saved."
O my friends! when we are brought into the quickening feeling of the love of
God, and into a spiritual perception, then it is, that we are anxious to know what
we are to do to be saved - how to escape from the pollutions of the world, and
how to be fitted to belong to the general assembly and church of the first born
whose names are written in heaven. The way for this, I have no doubt, is to retire
into ourselves and wait upon him who is able to reach unto his tried subjects,
and to open in their minds a clear sense of what they stand in need of; and I
could ask you to consider, how the soul that is tried and brought under any
weight or exercise of affliction is to have this removed; and how he is to be
made sensible that it is done away, by any other means than by the presentation
of internal evidence to the soul itself. And it has been no doubt the blessed
experience of not a few of those in the audience of my voice, that their trials and
afflictions have been lightened by the immediate presence of that being who fills
the heavens and the earth. By the immediate impression of his love the minds of
many have been relieved. And how precious a thing it is to have an evidence that
he sustains the character of Heavenly Father, and that he is always full of tender
compassion. This is the greatest source of comfort to the afflicted and tried
mind; for if he only can get hold of the conviction that God is love, and that he is
over all his works, how it relieves all anxiety, and the soul reposes on him as an
almighty friend. I wish you all to experience this; for we are passing along the
awful stream of time, and approaching the spiritual world. And if we are happy
here and forever, I believe it must be in consequence of witnessing a union of
soul with God; and this will only be known by the influence of his eternal spirit
upon the perceptive faculties of our spirits, through those powers which he has
bestowed upon each of us. And as we become acquainted with this influence,
these powers become enlarged, so that we are rendered quick sighted, to see
when evil presents itself. We shall also see that we are all standing in need of
God's help for our security and preservation, and thus we shall be helped along
the dangerous path of time. As these things engaged my attention in this
interesting assembly, and without an expectation of saying much, I believed it
right for me to spread them before you, for your weighty and close
(The first few words were not heard by the reporter.) Lord of hosts, the God of the spirits of all flesh! it is cause of consolation and comfort to all those that have become acquainted with thee, to know and to be sensible, that thou art indeed a present help in every needful time. And that while thy sacred eye beholds the evil and the good, thou remainest to be graciously attentive to those who are concerned to put their trust in thee, under all the various conflicts and trials to which we are liable in our passage through this present probationary scene.
Thou, O Lord of hosts, remainest to be graciously pleased to furnish conclusive evidence, that thy power is sufficient to support and sustain us, as well in the lowest regions of affliction, as upon the highest point of elevation. O gracious and sovereign Creator! thou beholdest the present state of thy workmanship - thine eye sees the many tossings, turnings and overturnings that are going on among thy rational creation. And if it be consistent with thy holy and ever blessed will, condescend, we pray thee, to open yet more abundantly, in the understanding and judgment of all them that are looking toward thy blessed sanctuary, the way in which they should go. Wilt thou be pleased, as it regards the great and important work of the ministration, the instrumental ministration of the gospel of Christ - we pray thee, to encompass the spirits of thy servants, and thy handmaids, every one, more and more, with a clear and sound discernment, and with a correct understanding of what thou in thy wisdom commandest shall be done, and what thou in thy wisdom commandest shall not be done. Wilt thou bow the heavens and come down, O gracious God, and interpose the arm of thine own Almighty power, for the great and glorious purpose of shaking the kingdom and power of antichrist to its very centre; and may the babes in thy flock and thy family, that are tried and deeply afflicted everywhere, wheresoever they may be, have a little fountain opened in them, by which they may become acquainted with thee, and blessed in thee, and in thy dear son. And O righteous Father, as thou hast solemnized our minds together, and hast given this day unto many of us, hearts of feeling, and of brotherly kindness, we ask it of thee, that thou wilt preserve us in these feelings, and that the true current of brotherly kindness and brotherly love, may flow from vessel to vessel, and extend from sea to sea, and from the rivers to the ends of the earth. That so, Holy One of Israel, thy kingdom may come, and thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. Thou knowest, O God, the frailties of thy creature man, and thou canst provide a way for every case, and every circumstance that rests upon our souls; and Oh! that thou wouldst be pleased to give us a blessed entrance, into the stream of repentance, that we may repent of all our sins past, and implore thy merciful forgiveness, and, that thou wilt enable us to effect the great work of our ransom from under every power and principle of darkness in which we have been involved: and may we at last belong to that glorious and blessed assembly, which surround the throne of thy glory, that so we may be raised from our fallen state to join with thy children in ascribing unto thee, glory, honour, might add majesty, with united devotion, now and for ever. Amen.